Srini Rao and I didn’t cross paths at BlogWorld 2010, but after the event, we found ourselves connecting on Twitter, since we had mutual friends. Along with Sid Savara, Srini runs BlogcastFM, which is a great site for new and experienced bloggers alike, since he posts podcast interviews with awesome people who are willing to share their blogging secrets to success. Srini was nice enough to let me pick his brain a little about podcasting, so if you’re thinking about adding a podcast to your blog, check out what he had to say:
Allison: How did you get started as a blogger?
Srini: Like most great things in life it was a fortunate accident. However, the story goes quite far back. In 2000 when I graduated from a college a friend of mine created a newsletter where people would send in contributions about what they were doing during the summer. I had a column called “summer of Srini” that actually became quite popular among my small group of friends. So that was really the start of it long before blogging even existed. In April 2009, I graduated from business schoool and couldn’t find a job. So I joined Yaro Starak’s Blog Mastermind program in the hopes that starting a blog would help me find a job and give me a project to keep from going nuts while I was unemployed.
What made you move from writing a blog to running a podcast about blogging? How did that evolve into a membership site?
This was yet another fortunate accident. One of the lessons in the Blog Mastermind program was to interview people. So I started a weekly series called interviews with up and coming bloggers. Roughly 13 weeks into the series one the guys I interviewed, Sid Savara actually pitched me on the idea of taking the podcast and putting it on a separate site where all we did was interview people. As far as the membership site goes, we pack our interviews with TONS of information, almost too much. We wanted to provide people with another way to digest the information, that made it easier to take action, especially when they might not always have time to listen to a 45 minute interview. People had been asking us for transcripts of the interviews, but that would more or less be the same thing our podcasts have just on paper, and we wanted to cut all the fluff. The membership site is still evolving and we’ve been doing a weekly u-stream chat and live webinar for the BlogcastFM community.
How do you find guests for your podcast?
In the beginning it was basically leveraging the relationships we had. Fortunately Sid Savara (my blogcastfm partner) was more established than I was and he had relationships with some well known bloggers. But that wasn’t the only way we found people. We looked the blogs we read. I look for two things in a guest: an interesting story and something they can teach our audience. For example, I interviewed Shannon and Kristin, from All of us Revolution. They were only a month old when I interviewed them, but I liked their story and I thought they could teach our audience something. Today, we actually are in an interesting position in that we actually get contacted at least a few times a week by people who are interested in being guests or have been long time listeners. But I am always on the look out for interesting guests. I also will occasionally put out a tweet asking for recommendations from people. I love it when a long time listener has become successful enough to become a guest and I’d like to think we played a role in that process.
What kind of prep work do you do before your interviews? Do you think it’s easier or harder to prepare for your podcast because it’s in interview format rather than talk show format?
This is an interesting one because it will probably shock some people. I’ve done this so many times at this point I can almost do it in my sleep. There are times when I have about 5 minutes to look at a person’s story and that’s it. That being said, I do take a look at the guests blog, try to find out what their most noteworthy accomplishments are, and read a few of their posts. I think the interview format actually makes it easier because I know what I need to ask in almost every interview and even though I have a structure it’s really loose and allows for things to flow.
Do you have any advice for bloggers who feel too shy to podcast?
This is a tough one. I wish I could say that they should just start. But there are some people who won’t naturally be good at things like this and I don’t recommend forcing square pegs into round holes. On the flip side of that, if it’s just nerves, then it’s about just taking the plunge. There’s no way you’re going to be perfect the first 50 times you do it. After 130 interviews, I’m always looking for ways to to improve. Sometimes I’m blown away by what I can get out of a guest and others I’m amazed that it doesn’t go as I’d like it to. One thing that helps is finding somebody to record it with.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see (or hear) other podcasters making?
As I mentioned above, listening is key. Another thing I would say is finding a subject matter that works. If you’re starting a podcast just for the sake of having a podcast and you’re not saying anything useful, that doesn’t help you or your audience. One thing that drives me nuts is when people treat interviews like interrogations. I tend to be fairly critical of interviews as you can imagine. If your goal is just to get through a list of questions, it just kills the flow of conversation. In order to make your podcast useful and entertaining the key is to let the conversation flow.
Is podcasting something all bloggers should be doing? How should bloggers decide whether or not to podcast?
I don’t think it’s something all blogggers should be doing. You really need to understand your audience and whether or not a podcast is right for them. Yes a podcast can do wonders for your personal brand, but if you’re awful at it, it’s going to actually hurt your brand. As far as deciding whether or not they should podcast, I think they need to figure out if they’ve got enough material to keep an audience’s attention for at least 30 minutes a week. Having material is really key.
For bloggers who are starting a new podcast, what’s the single best piece of advice you can give them?
I’d say to have fun with it. Podcasting is a blast for me because I get to talk to so many interesting people. It’s probably one of the greatest relationship building tools in my personal arsenal. I’ve made some amazing friends, found people to collaborate with and learned an absolutely insane amount of blogging knowledge because of having a podcast. People shouldn’t sweat the results of their podcast as much as they should on providing value to their audience. Once you start focusing on the creation of value really amazing things will start to happen.